09/28/10

South Africa (ZA)   Raptors - Part II  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 04:04:35 pm

Week 39 - 25 September 2010, SAANR

Following reports of good raptors at SAANR the previous day, Simon and I (followed by Brian and Pekka) headed out to SAANR and straight to Tuhla where we met up with all the well known local birders and an awesome display of photographic hardware. We felt rather inadequate with our small 400mm lenses amongst the much bigger white lenses. Images by Mike Pope


We were treated to a real raptor spectacle as a variety of Buzzards, Harriers, small Eagles and Sparrowhawks stopped to drink before continuing on their passage south. Undoubtably, the bird of today was the juvenile dark form Crested Honey Buzzard found by Rashed Al-Hajji et. al the previous day which did several sorties over the excited group

Juvenile Crested Honey Buzzard

Juvenile Crested Honey Buzzard

Juvenile Crested Honey Buzzard

Juvenile Crested Honey Buzzard

In between the Crested Honey Buzzard show, we were entertained by a Sparrowhawk dropping in for a splash and dash

Sparrowhawk

A single Pallid Harrier was outnumbered by all the Buzzards

Pallid Harrier

Both forms of Booted Eagle were seen, this the dark form

Dark Form Booted Eagle

Dark Form Booted Eagle

and the pale form

Pale Form Booted Eagle

Pale Form Booted Eagle

The most common raptor this morning were the Steppe Buzzards, from a fox red adult to the variable plumages of juveniles and 1cy birds - so excuse my indulgence with the following study of Steppe Buzzards, in what completed a fantastic raptor spectacle morning

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Part of the big group enjoying the raptor festival and Crested Honey Buzzard at Tuhla, from L to R: Abdulmohsen Alsuraye, Pekka Fagel, Brian Foster, Mike Pope and Simon Price. Many thanks to Rashed Al-Hajji for taking the photograph

Kuwait Birders

09/26/10

South Africa (ZA)   Raptors - Part 1  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 05:08:39 pm

Week 39 - 25 September 2010, Pivot Fields

My friend and birding colleague Simon Price is migrating south and back to South Africa, so we had a last day out before his departure date for some good migration birding and noted that Raptor species and numbers are now on the increase following some good northerly winds. Images by Mike Pope


As time was limited, we spent only 90-minutes at Pivot Fields. Around the entrance and crocodile pond we had many Great Reed Warblers - in fact the only warbler that we saw today

Great Reed Warbler

Great Reed Warbler

Great Reed Warbler

While watching the warblers, a Marsh Harrier flew over, scattering them all into the reeds

Marsh Harrier

One Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (the less common form with the black throat) was seen along the roadside

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

Black Kites have increased and many were seen roosting on the pivot irrigations and on the ground

Black Kite

Steppe Buzzard in various plumage variations were also evident in growing numbers

Steppe Buzzard

A Sparrowhawk with a full crop was seen fleetingly as it flew between the casarina trees

Sparrowhawk

While trying to get a better view of the Sparrowhawk, we flushed a male Pallid Harrier who showed us exactly what he thought for disturbing him

Pallid Harrier

Another juvenile/1cy Pallid Harrier contrasted well as it flew over the crops before we headed for SAANR

Pallid Harrier

South Africa (ZA)   Sea and Shorebirds  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 10:23:20 am

Week 39 - 20 September 2010, Sharq Harbour and FTZ

I managed to squeeze in 30-minutes at Sharq Harbour and FTZ before work this morning. Images by Mike Pope


At the harbour, I had some White-cheeked Terns fishing amongst the gulls along the shorebreak. I will post the Gull pics later, once I have sorted out the ID's

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

A Yellow Wagtail feeding amongst the rocks caught my attention

Yellow Wagtail

A Common Sandpiper came in low over the sea

Common Sandpiper

A favourable morning high tide in FTZ produced a Little Egret hunting in the shore break amongst Gulls

Little Egret

It flushed a few of the Slender-billed Gulls as it dashed about in between them almost running on the water with outstretched wings

Slender-billed Gull

Other shorebirds seen included Grey Plover, now in winter plumage

Grey Plover

Many smaller waders with increased numbers of Broad-billed Sandpipers

Broad-billed Sandpiper

And a single Bar-tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed Godwit

09/15/10

South Africa (ZA)   More Eid Birding  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 03:57:53 pm

Week 37 - 11 September 2010, Al Abraq, SAANR and Sulaibikhat

Pekka Fagel is back in Kuwait and Simon Price had ventured below sea level in Jordan. Pekka and I spent the morning birding together and after this session my wings will be clipped for awhile as my family returns back to Kuwait tomorrow after a long summer vacation. Images by Mike Pope


We headed out to Al Abraq and were at the oasis farm by 6:30am and sadly so were all the shooters. This morning we counted between 15 and 20 cars circling the boundary shooting at everything flying in and out of the farm. One group of shooters was even playing recordings of Oriole and Bee-eaters to entice them closer to be blown out of the sky. Disheartened, we continued birding inside the farm getting the odd shower of shotgun pellets falling on us and trying our best not to flush any birds out of the farm. As the temperature was bearable, we walked around the farm finding Bee-eaters and Oriole (target birds for the shooters) as well as small flocks of Black-headed Bunting

Black-headed Bunting

A single Yellow-throated Sparrow was seen together with the Buntings

Yellow-throated Sparrow

We followed a Citrine Wagtail in the undergrowth patiently waiting for a photo opportunity

Citrine Wagtail

A few Barred Warblers were also seen on the walk

Barred Warbler

Orolan Buntings appear to have arrived in the last day or two, as they were seen here too

Ortolan Bunting

Walking back to the car, I flushed 2 Egyptian Nightjars which I managed to relocate and photograph

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

By this time the heat had risen and most of the shooters had thankfully departed, so we drove around the farm finding a 1cy Willow Warbler

Willow Warbler

and an Olivaceous Warbler pumping its tail up and down before it drank

Olivaceous Warbler

Olivaceous Warbler

From here we headed to SAANR and joined up with some Kuwaiti birders and photographers. Sadly, no raptors this morning like they had seen here yesterday. The White-chested Kingfisher was still present

White-chested Kingfisher

Only Larks and Wheatears at the wadi pan, as well as the introduced Arabian Gazelle which I havent seen for a long time

Arabian Gazelle

On the way home we passed by Sulaibikhat and saw both phases of Indian Reef Heron together

Indian Reef Heron

A few large white-headed Gulls were seen, this I believe is Armenian Gull

Armenian Gull

and a Caspian Gull

Caspian Gull

standing together for comparison

Caspian and Armenian Gull

South Africa (ZA)   Eid Birding  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 03:23:26 pm

Week 37 - 10 September 2010, Sulaibikhat and SAANR

With Eid being called, we have a 4-day weekend and now wont dehydrate sitting out in the heat of the desert with a hot wind blowing most of the afternoon. Images by Mike Pope


On the way to SAANR I drove past the middle part of Sulaibikhat Bay where the tide was still quite a way out. It was great to catch up with both adult and juvenile Crab Plovers that are often seen at this location

Crab Plover

Once in SAANR, I headed straight to Tuhla and even late in the afternoon the temp was still pretty high. Larks were the predominant species around the pond. Groups of Lesser Short Toed Larks were seen staying in the shade of the trees

Lesser Short Toed Lark

A Short Toed Lark coming in for a drink

Short Toed Lark

My first Ortolan Bunting of this autumn was seen in amongst all the Larks

Ortolan Bunting

A juvenile Pied Wheater also trying to keep out of direct sunlight

Pied Wheatear

A drive around the small pool gave a juvenile Roller trying to keep low in the hot wind

Roller

A Steppe Buzzard in some thick foliage

Steppe Buzzard

The White-chested Kingfisher showing its wide gape has made this pool its own

White-chested Kingfisher

A quick drive to the wadi pan produced much of the same in terms of Larks and Wheatears. It was fascinating though to watch how Bar-tailed Larks tried different ways to shelter from the wind and to keep the temperatures in their tiny bodies regulated. This one opted to stand with its wings outstretched

Bar-tailed Lark

Another took advantage of a shallow scrape near the water

Bar-tailed Lark

This one lying completely flat with eyes closed, something I have not seen previously

Bar-tailed Lark

South Africa (ZA)   Last day of Ramadan  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 03:02:17 pm

Week 37 - 09 September 2010, Sulaibikhat

This is the last working day with shortened working hours, so before heading home I made a quick stop at the Sulaibikhat Outfall where the tide was already on its way out. Images by Mike Pope


The Gull and Terns are skittish when there is no water, as departed as soon as I arrived

Mixed Flock

I sat quietly sweating in my car waiting for birds to come to me, the Little Stints were first to arrive, some still shedding their summer plumage and others already in winter dress

Little Stint

Little Stint

A single Dunlin drifted closer

Dunlin

Sand Martins were drinking from the outfall

Sand Martin

A family of White-eared Bulbuls landed right in front of me

White-eared Bulbul

09/09/10

South Africa (ZA)   2nd Last Day of Ramadan  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 03:39:52 pm

Week 37 - 08 September 2010, Pivot Fields and FTZ

I was at the gates of Pivot Fields at 7am this morning for some birding before work. Next week, Kuwait is back to normal working hours, so I wont have these before and after work sorties again until next year. Images by Mike Pope


Driving along the boundary road just after the gate, a juvenile Turkestan Shrike was hunting from a high perch

Juvenile Turkestan Shrike

A Bluethroat was seen in the roadside scrub

Bluethroat

I stopped and sat quietly for around 20-minutes at the thick reeds around the crocodile pond and slowly the warblers started appearing. The ID of this bird is not confirmed but it has been suggested that this is Caspian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus fuscus) rather than a Marsh Warblers. This one a juvenile showing perfect primaries and greenish tones to the perfect plumage.This tricky group and specifically a bird like this can only really be identified with certainty using physical data and measurements (i.e in the hand)

Caspian Reed or Marsh Warblder

This appears to be a Reed Warbler, as Marsh would have secondaries shorter than tertials

Marsh Warblder

A whole generation of Great Reed Warblers were seen, first the adult showing some broken primary tips

Great Reed Warbler

followed by another adult where there is clearly contrast between worn wings (note broken primary tips) and tail to fresh scapulars (though there are some unmoulted scapulars), mantle and crown.

Juvenile Great Reed Warbler

and then what appears to be a juvenile in primary active moult. Bill proportions is difficult to judge, but it does look long and slightly downcurved. It has very short primary projections and very long tail, and I believe it's a Clamorous Reed Warbler

Juvenile Clamorous Reed Warbler

While waiting for the Warblers, I counted at least 11 Hoopoes fly out of the reeds where they must have roosted during the night

Hoopoe

A juvenile Masked Shrike was also successfully hunting from this fence post

Juvenile Masked Shrike

Dragonflies are now part of the food chain as migrants like Shrikes and Bee-eaters are on the move

Dragonfly

Only one Kestrel was seen, this one enjoying the spray from the overhead irrigation

Kestrel

A quick drive around the fields produced flocks of both Lesser and Short Toed Larks which have now arrived in numbers,this a Short Toed Lark

Short Toed Lark

as well as Yellow Wagtails, especially with the abundance of food in the fields

Yellow Wagtail

I found 3 Caspian Plovers that I was secretly hoping to be something more rare

Caspian Plover

Caspian Plover

Numbers of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters are seen at most locations - this one had its beak full with a really large grasshopper that was going to take some time to devour

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

A single Black-crowned Finch Lark was seen driving out

Black-crowned Finch Lark

After work I check the tidal zone along the boundary road in FTZ - many waders were seen along the beach, here two Lesser Sand Plovers still showing some breeding plumage

Lesser Sand Plover

A Grey Plover in the company of Lesser and Greater Sand Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover and Curlew Sandpiper - 6 species in one image!

Grey Plover and friends

09/06/10

South Africa (ZA)   Kirhan Census  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 04:37:38 pm

Week 36 - 04 September 2010, Kirhan Pearl City Development

The NW wind picked up its pace today, but that didnt deter Simon Price and I when we met Anand at Kirhan to conduct our monthly census. Images by Mike Pope


As is customary, we headed out of the development to the buoys in the channel in fairly lumpy sea conditions and one route got these juvenile White-cheeked Terns at the old Kirhan resort

White-cheeked Terns

Once out into the sea, the swells with white horses were driven by a freshening wind which the Lesser-crested Terns seemed to enjoy - but this really did make photography challenging as we were knocked about on deck

Lesser-crested Terns

Kirhan is THE place to find Socotra Cormorant in summer and again we were not disappointed with 4 juveniles on the last buoy

juvenile Socotra Cormorant

This juvenile found a novel perch on the very top of the buoy to speed dry its feathers, looking ready to take off at any minute

juvenile Socotra Cormorant

juvenile Socotra Cormorant

We headed back into the development for shelter and to explore the islands for migratory birds and despite the conditions did well in adding 7 new species to the Developments List, including Common Quail, Common Cuckoo, Skylark and Broad-billed Sandpiper to name a few. This juvenile Ruff flew past in the company of some Redshanks

Ruff

A European Bee-eater on Island # 1

European Bee-eater

A juvenile Red-backed Shrike was one of 3 Shrike species seen on Island # 2

Red-backed Shrike

Earlier in the week, Anand had seen a dark cormorant fishing in the Gulf, so despite the increased wind, we headed out to sea to inspect the buoys one last time. This time there were 6 cormorants which included a single adult in non-breeding plumage, we were elated. As far as I know, only a handful of adult Socotra's have been seen in Kuwait, but this bird is one of two that have been photographed

adult non-br Socotra Cormorant

adult non-br Socotra Cormorant

adult non-br Socotra Cormorant

adult non-br Socotra Cormorant

By now we had been buffeted and dried out by the wind, so decided to call it a day. On the way out, we stopped at a small pan where a shooter was trying to entice ducks from his 4 x 4 with taped calls. Aside from that irritation, we did pick up a smart looking Wood Sandpiper, the last new bird to the Development list for today

Wood Sandpiper

09/05/10

South Africa (ZA)   The NW winds blow  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 04:50:55 pm

Week 36 - 03 September 2010, SAANR

During the course of Friday morning the wind shifted and the NW wind kicked in, so in the afternoon I made my way to SAANR to check on new arrivals. Images by Mike Pope


I spent an hour in dry, dusty and windy conditions (no complaints, they are welcome) at the Tuhla pool where there were many Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters cooling off in the water. The would hover above the water and then quickly dive in before returning to perch on a branch and preen

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

Suddenly all the birds scattered into the air, as this Hobby came drifting over and then landed for a drink

Hobby

Hobby

It stayed for the rest of the afternoon, putting the birds in the air each time it went for a sortie. I noticed a Pallid Harrier (light collar and dark boa) sitting in the shade and getting spooked by a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater that had to swim to shore after not recovering from its splash into the water. I was really surprised that the Harrier didnt take the opportunity and snatch a free, but bedraggled meal from under its beak

Pallid Harrier

Pallid Harrier

Northern Wheatear was my first for this autumn

Northern Wheatear

As was Pied Wheatear

Pied Wheatear

Another Rose-coloured Starling was my 4th for this Autumn

Rose-coloured Starling

Many birds were coming in to drink in the dry heat, at 4pm it was still 48 degrees. A single Black-headed Bunting was seen

Black-headed Bunting

As well as Lesser Short-toed Lark (Fine streaking on breast, short and stubby bill and normally a visible primary projection

Lesser Short-toed Lark

Even a Squacco Heron dropped in

Squacco Heron

Sand Martins and Barn Swallows settling down for the night

Sand Martins and Barn Swallows

A tatty looking White-chested Kingfisher was taken at ISO 1000 and overall I was pleased with the amount of noise on the image in the fading light

White-chested Kingfisher

I headed out to the small pan in the wadi where some water was still flowing and found the diminutive Bar-tailed Lark

Bar-tailed Lark

A Crested Lark quenching its thirst before the sun set

Crested Lark

This Whinchat didnt move about much in the wind

Whinchat

Here a Short-toed Lark with a dark patch on breast side, strong and pointed bill and long tertials that cloak its primaries

Short-toed Lark

Yellow Wagtail numbers are increasing, here an adult flava-type showing signs of its more usual grey head with white supercilium and buffish subdued tips to greater coverts

Yellow Wagtail

The sun is now setting much earlier as the end of Ramadan draws nearer; this depicts solar, wind and generated power in one image as another day comes to an end

Combined Energy

09/02/10

South Africa (ZA)   Spring has sprung  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 04:58:39 pm

Week 36 - 01 September 2010, Free Trade Zone and Jahra Pools Reserve

Spring has sprung, well at least in the southern hemisphere. Here in Kuwait, we are hoping that September will bring the awaited northerly winds (which may also mean dust, which we have had very little of this summer) and in turn the numbers of migratory birds. Images by Mike Pope


On the way to Jahra Pools, I drove along the FTZ coast road and am amazed at how species and numbers change on a daily basis. It appears that numbers of Redshank arrived overnight, as they were the most common wader this afternoon

Redshank

The Curlew really does stand out in the big flock of Redshanks

Curlew and Redshank

I arrived at Jahra Pools just after 4pm and it was still very hot and found that at most observations points the afternoon sun was not conducive to photography. However, I am also trying to record what is present and passing through on passage. A juvenile Roller was sitting on the tallest tree in the reserve

juvenile Roller

I parked near the main observation tower, sweating in the heat and saw that the 4 red-necked Phalaropes were still present

Red-necked Phalarope

11 Black-necked Grebes suddenly appeared and this species was not seen on my previous visit

Black-necked Grebe

Next point was the quite pan between the reeds that offered some respite from the heat, the usual suspects from last week were still present - Temmincks Stint

Temmincks Stint

and the Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover

A Green Sandpiper landed really close by, saw me in the car and left just as quickly

Green Sandpiper

A Spotted Crake briefly popped out of the reeds to feed with a juvenile Moorhen - a bird not seen last week

Spotted Crake and Moorhen

A tacking call alerted me to this warbler quite far from me (excuse the image quality) that was preening itself in the reeds after a bath. This is an adult Basra Reed Warbler and thanks to Yoav who explained that adults undergo a partial post breeding moult before migrating south. The major complete moult (of primaries and other important feathers) takes place in Africa in winter.

Possible Basra Reed Warbler

Possible Basra Reed Warbler

Possible Basra Reed Warbler

A Spotted Flycatcher on the way to the western side of the pan

Spotted Flycatcher

Driving to the western side, a Marsh Harrier put up a flock of ducks in the distance. I grabbed a shot to see if they were the Garganey from last week, but it appears that these might be Wigeon - again not a quality image, but rather to assist in ID

Wigeon

Under the second observation tower, the afternoon sun was more favourable for this lone Black-tailed Godwit. A series of images, in which I only saw during post processing that two Broad-billed Sandpipers were also present

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

A juvenile Oriole that stopped for a drink and to perhaps roost for the night

juvenile Oriole

Yellow Wagtail numbers continue to increase, this is an adult male of race feldegg after moulting their head feathers; the yellow supercilium is very usual in winter plumage

Yellow Wagtail

09/01/10

South Africa (ZA)   Along the shoreline  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 12:29:30 pm

Week 36 - 30 August 2010, Free Trade Zone and Sulaibikhat

As we head toward new moon, so high tide zone slowly recedes. However high tide is still good to observe the many waders that congregate on the shoreline. Images by Mike Pope


After work, although the sun wasnt favourable, I drove along the coastal road in the Free Trade Zone and observed large congregations of waders, predominantly Curlew Sandpipers. Some patience was required working throug them to find other species. Obviously the bigger waders like this European Oystercatcher stood out immediately

European Oystercatcher

The next that stood above the Curlew Sandpipers was a Greenshank

Greenshank

Followed by a couple of Redshanks

Redshank

A Dunlin was a little more difficult to pick out in the group

Dunlin and Curlew Sandpipers

Lesser and Greater Sand Plovers making up the mixed flock

Lesser and Greater Sandplovers

The smaller and darker Broad-billed Sandpiper didnt immediately stand out

Broad-billed Sandpiper

From FTZ, a short drive to the Sulaibikhat Outfall where I sat quietly waiting for the birds to come closer as they got accustomed to my car. However, all that went out the window when some selfish local came driving up at speed in his X6, looked at the big flock and then blew his hooter and put them all in the air and then drove off - mission accomplished! A large flock of departing Bar-tailed Godwits were present in amongst the gulls and tern

Bar-tailed Godwit

I didnt stay much longer, but got some images of Caspian Plover as they returned to roost

Caspian Tern

together with Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern

and a White-winged Tern still in transition plumage, before I left

White-winged Tern

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